How lucky we are to have our own community orchestra!
Hawaii Island is chock full of wonderful musicians. Some made music their profession, and others simply love to make music. They are our co-workers, neighbors, friends, and relatives. They come together in our beloved Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra (KPO).
To plan a concert for a community orchestra is different from, say, the Pittsburg Symphony. The pieces chosen must be ones that delight and sometimes challenge both the musicians and the audience, but they must also be ones that professionals and non-professionals alike can play well with joy and confidence.
KPO Conductor Brian Dollinger’s choice of Felix Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides fit this prescription well. When Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s Cave in Scotland in 1829, he was amazed by this immense tunnel, 72 feet high and 270 feet deep, with walls made of hexagonal basalt pillars, a geological wonder of the world. He couldn’t help immediately putting his feelings of majesty and awe into music. The piece begins with the slow lapping of waves echoing in the cave, evoked by the deep tones of cellos and bassoons. In the second section, there is rising tension – perhaps a rising tide – and now rapid eddies of 16th notes and the boom of the timpani resound as the dangerous waters swirl into the cave. The changing dynamics capture the interaction of the solid cave and the liquid sea as the levels of turbulence shift. The KPO woodwinds were exceptional, and the piece allowed both winds and strings to shine.
Fast forward two hundred years to David Stern’s Rhapsody for Violin and Strings, first performed in 2021. The piece was like a reverie; fragments of sweet dreams keep rolling by but never come together as a straightforward narrative. The slightly dissonant chords, B’s with C’s, for example, create a subtle tension; we expect resolution, but it keeps getting postponed. Even the ending is not quite firm; we’re left in mid-dream.
Long-time KPO Concertmaster, Ursula Vietze, was the soloist; hearing her demonstrate her lyrical tone made us appreciate our community orchestra all the more. We can catch musicians from off-island in Kahilu’s other excellent programming, but for a KPO concert, it’s appropriate and much appreciated when our own local talent is showcased. I’d love to hear more solos from our KPO members.
The final piece was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. It was written after Napoleon’s defeat, and Beethoven is exuberant. The first section has a peppy martial feel, upbeat and optimistic. The second movement is a funeral march, starting with somber simplicity, building in volume and emotional power with the addition of more instruments and musical harmonies, and devolving into a fugue before we leave the pathos of those who died behind us. The third movement is light and playful, back home from the front. The final movement is a celebratory dance with fast and fancy footwork, skipping, and stomping, emphasizing every beat provided by the constant boom of the timpani.
In this last piece, there were moments when some instruments were a bit out of tune or out of sync, unlike the precision they demonstrated in the performance of The Hebrides. But the KPO musicians were valiant soldiers and succeeded in pulling off a rousing finish. We all marched out of the theater in 4/4 time, still feeling the pulse of Sharon Cannon’s amazing timpani playing and looking forward to the next time we can share an afternoon with these talented community musicians whom we so love and admire.
Listen to an exclusive interview with conductor Brian Dollinger.
About the author: Meizhu Lui didn’t know there was any other kind of music except classical until she hit junior high! Piano and flute have been her instruments of choice. She is now pursuing her bucket list goal of deepening her musical knowledge and skills.
Photos: ©2022 Steve Roby. Images are available for licensing.
Performance date: 25/September/2022
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